High dynamic range photography

Okay, now I’m just embarassed. I just heard about high dynamic range (HDR) photography from a NY Times article. I plead that it’s mostly just a trick and, hey, I primarily shoot slide film anyway.

So for others who haven’t heard of HDR photography, it’s a technical work around for one of the more difficult photographic problems – the problem of the dynamic range of film vs that of the eye. In a nutshell, the human eye has an enormous dynamic range. It can distinguish between two different very bright shades while simultaneously distinguishing between two very dark shades. It’s dynamic range, IIRC, is somewhere around 10. On the other hand, slide film and prints from print film have a dynamic range of 5, maybe 6. That doesn’t sound like much difference, except that this is a logarithmic scale.

This leads to the photography problem. The gorgeous scene that you photographed may not show up in your image unless the scene has a small dynamic range. Enter HDR. With HDR, you take multiple exposures. This ensures that you have a “good” exposure for each part of the scene. You then algorithmically combine the images to produce a meta-image which is well exposed across the entire scene.

The biggest problem I see with these images is that they wind up looking like Thomas Kincaid paintings. That said, I’ll probably play with this technique soon using CinePaint (a fork of the GIMP).

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